The city of Glendale presented a plan to federal officials Monday that would allow it to pump and deliver water from the San Fernando Valley aquifer as long as chromium 6 levels do not exceed those found in water the city imports from Northern California.
Under the plan presented to the Environmental Protection Agency office in San Francisco, Glendale will agree to allow operation of a water treatment facility that was designed to purge the water of solvents but not chromium 6, a heavy metal and suspected carcinogen.
Glendale had signed a consent decree in August to keep the plant running to help remove decades of industry-generated solvent contamination in the Valley aquifer, a federal Superfund site.
The city, in turn, is asking the EPA to allow closure of wells with high concentrations of chromium 6 and to slow the rate at which water is drawn from the Valley aquifer to allow those supplies to be blended with imported water.
City officials want to limit chromium 6 to no more than 1 part per billion, comparable to the levels in water they now import from Northern California. But the two sides would still have to hammer out the details on how to do that.
"We still are going to come up with a plan on how to deliver water and not exceed 1 ppb of chromium 6," said Glendale spokesman Ritch Wells. "But the bottom line is that there will be no degradation in our water quality."
EPA spokeswoman Lisa Fasano said Monday that the agency must still review Glendale's proposal and that both sides would continue to meet as they work out the details of a potential compromise.
"We can't approve their proposal until we get more detailed information from them," said Fasano.
"They have offered an outline but there are still many issues to be worked out."
The two sides have scheduled their next meeting for April 11 but Fasano said discussions would likely come before then because an arrangement that allows Glendale to dump water with chromium 6 into the Los Angeles River expires on March 31.
The latest proposal by Glendale is in marked contrast to a city plan that called for shutting down the Glendale water treatment plant for up to four years while a second facility was built to help remove chromium 6 contamination in the San Fernando Valley aquifer.
But last week the EPA rejected that solution, saying the treatment facility must continue to run "at as full capacity as possible," under an agreement the city signed last August.
Glendale officials say water they now import has less than 1 part per billion of chromium 6.
By comparison, well water from the Glendale treatment plant has measured as high as 17 ppb of chromium 6.
Those levels meet current state standards of 50 parts per billion, but a state agency has recommended that chromium 6 should not exceed 0.2 ppb for optimum safety. That recommendation is now under review by the state Department of Health Services.
Because of those differences in safety thresholds, Glendale political leaders say they are not taking any chances that the water will be delivered to residents and have ordered more than $1 million worth of treated ground water dumped into the Los Angeles River since last September.